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January 22, 2009
The Big PictureIf anyone thought Twenty20 would spell the end of 50-over cricket, the opening two ODIs between Australia and South Africa should have assuaged their fears. Both contests came down to the final over with either side still capable of victory. In Melbourne, South Africa got home in their chase but in Hobart Ben Hilfenhaus delivered a steady last over that won the match for Australia. It means the series is now locked at 1-1 and Friday's match at the SCG will put one team within a win of taking the trophy.
ODI form guideAustralia - WLWWW
Team newsAustralia will take in a more experienced attack than in their Hobart victory, where Hilfenhaus and the debutant Ryan Harris performed solidly. Both men have been left out of the side for the SCG, where Mitchell Johnson will return after a break and Shaun Tait should also play having been rested at Bellerive Oval. The remaining question is whether Australia can find a place for the offspinner Nathan Hauritz on his home ground. Hauritz has travelled with the team for the Twenty20s and two ODIs without being required as David Hussey, Michael Clarke and Cameron White have shared the spin duties. At the SCG he might have his best chance of a call-up with the allrounder James Hopes a potential casualty.
Australia 1 Shaun Marsh, 2 David Warner, 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 David Hussey, 6 Cameron White, 7 Brad Haddin (wk), 8 James Hopes/Nathan Hauritz, 9 Mitchell Johnson, 10 Nathan Bracken, 11 Shaun Tait.
South Africa entered the series planning to rotate their fast bowlers and Dale Steyn is the only one of the Test attack not to have had a rest. His break could come at the SCG or in the next game at the Adelaide Oval, with Morne Morkel and the uncapped Lonwabo Tsotsobe both available to replace him. It is hard to see the batting line-up altering, with Vaughn van Jaarsveld likely to miss out again.
South Africa (possible) 1 Herschelle Gibbs, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 JP Duminy, 6 Neil McKenzie, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Albie Morkel, 9 Johan Botha (capt), 10 Dale Steyn/Morne Morkel, 11 Makhaya Ntini.
Watch out for ...Mitchell Johnson returns to the squad having rested for the two Twenty20s and the first two ODIs. Australia's best bowler over the past few months, Johnson adds venom to an attack already featuring the dangerous Tait and the world's No. 1 one-day seamer Nathan Bracken. Johnson also strengthens a tail that has been unusually long for Australia this series, with Bracken, Tait and Hilfenhaus not exactly reliable with the bat.
Hashim Amla has promised much on this tour without really delivering. Three half-centuries in the Test series showed his class but he had a habit of getting out when well set. Amla has struggled to bring the same consistency to the limited-overs portion of the trip and finding form at the top of the order will be important for South Africa to have their best chance of a series win.
Pitch & conditionsThe SCG pitch was the subject of vigorous debate during the Test match, when its cracks resembled earthquake-inducing fault-lines. However, the game lasted until the final few minutes on the fifth day, so batting was clearly not too difficult and Sydney is usually a venue where runs can be scored relatively freely. The weather could be a slight concern, with the chance of showers or thunderstorms.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"Mitchell will obviously come back in, after a couple of weeks off he was obviously jumping out of his skin to get back in the nets to bat and bowl again. That is a good sign for us."
"I'd like to think most of the pressure is on Australia. It's their backyard and there are expectations on them to win."
Billboards are calling the series England's Indian Summer, but it is India who are looking for that period of warmth, redemption after the last whitewash, for they have seen how bleak the winter that can follow is
The present Indian bowling line-up will tackle its first five-Test series without the proven guidance of Zaheer Khan, their bowling captain. India had unravelled without him in 2011. Will they do better this time around?
Accommodation for a great player like Jacques Kallis should be made with careful consideration and South Africa cannot get carried away with sentiment
From two embattled captains to the challenge for India's openers against the new ball, ESPNcricinfo picks five contests that could determine the series
A look back at five high-profile exhibition matches
Shakib Al Hasan trained with his team-mates as the BCB directors held their meeting in Mirpur, unaware of the massive punishment he was about to be hit with